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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Richards turning focus to F1 bid
  • Mallya says no to Karthikeyan return
  • Hamilton measured for wax statue
  • German chief wants Ecclestone meeting
  • Vodafone pulls sports sponsorships
  • F1 cuts to cost jobs - Haug
  • Vettel plays down Red Bull winter dominance
  • Prost says France is 'anti-cars'
  • F1 to return to North America - Dennis

Richards turning focus to F1 bid
(GMM)  In a twist of fate, Subaru's withdrawal from the world rally championship could pave the way for David Richards to re-enter formula one.

The Japanese carmaker had collaborated with Richards' Prodrive motor racing company.

And with Richards already eyeing the purchase of Honda's F1 team, he told the British newspaper The Sun that this week's developments "clears the decks and gives me a bit of spare time to think about it".

"The new structure for F1 from 2010 onwards, with new regulations coming and very significant cost cutting programs, certainly make it more appealing and far more suitable for a company such as ours," he added.

"What's on the table today makes it far more feasible."

Richards, who formerly ran the Benetton and BAR teams, almost brought Prodrive into F1 this year but baulked at the 'customer car' situation.

Mallya says no to Karthikeyan return
(GMM)  Even with their nationality in common, Vijay Mallya has ruled out reviving the F1 career of the Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan.

Karthikeyan, now 31, became the first Indian to contest grands prix with Jordan in 2005, and after a spell as Williams test driver now drives in the A1 series.

But despite perpetual speculation linking him with Mallya's Force India team, the billionaire told the Asian Age that Karthikeyan "is not meeting (the) criteria".

"In my F1 context, Narain doesn't fit in," he added.

Another Indian racer Karun Chandhok has tested F1 cars and in 2008 raced in the second-tier GP2 category, but despite their closeness "I have not let my personal relationship come in between", Mallya said.

"Only the lack of suitable replacements has forced (us) to retain the same team for 2009.  The normally expected GP2 graduation didn't happen this time," he explained.

Mallya also confirmed that team chiefs Colin Kolles and Mike Gascoyne were recently ousted because they failed to meet their targets.

"We had a review meeting to see what went wrong.  We were given certain assurances that didn't happen.

"So we had no other choice other than revamping the think tank by sacking (them)," he said.

Hamilton measured for wax statue
(GMM)  London's Madame Tussauds wax museum is to immortalize the new formula one world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The 23-year-old Briton, who has become the youngest ever drivers' title winner in the sport's 58 year history, this week underwent 300 measurements in view of joining the attraction's 'Sports Zone' in 2009.

Photos of the McLaren driver, wearing his McLaren racing suit, were also taken, and details including the comparison of the color of his eyes with artificial eyeballs undertaken.

It is said Hamilton's wax likeness will cost nearly $230,000.

German chief wants Ecclestone meeting
(GMM)  The minister-president of the German state Baden-Wurttemberg is seeking a meeting with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

Gunther Oettinger said during a press conference in Stuttgart that, given the fact that Hockenheim can no longer afford to stage the grand prix, he would like to renegotiate the race's commercial contract.

Local stakeholders met last Thursday to discuss the predicament, but with government financial support ruled out, the last resort could be trying to convince Ecclestone to reduce his annual fees.

Circuit boss Karl-Josef Schmidt said last week that time for a solution is running out.

"The financial package has to be in place by (the end of March) or else there won't be any more formula one at the Hockenheimring," he said.

Vodafone pulls sports sponsorships
(GMM)  The telecommunications giant Vodafone, also title sponsor to the top formula one team McLaren, has pulled its long-standing backing of the England cricket team.

John Perera, commercial director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, predicted the move is a sign of the impact of the world economic downturn on sport.

"Cricket and most other major sports have had a very successful run in marketing and commercial terms in the last five or ten years.  This is the first downturn in the period," he told the Telegraph.

Vodafone also plans to end its backing of football's Champions League, but at present remains committed to McLaren.

It is suggested that Vodafone's impending withdrawal of its $6.1m per year cricket sponsorship was decided after a wider "review" of its sports backing, including that of the McLaren team.

F1 cuts to cost jobs - Haug
(GMM)  Norbert Haug, in charge of Mercedes-Benz's collaboration with McLaren, has confirmed that job losses will occur as a result of the sport's cost-slashing drive.

"The cost reductions will not be without the loss of appointments," he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.

F1's rules changes for 2009 are expected to cut 30 per cent out of team budgets, and 56-year-old Haug recently called for a 50 per cent slash within two years.

He explained that possible cuts to the giant salaries of F1 drivers, including McLaren's new world champion Lewis Hamilton, will be handled internally but in compliance with market forces.

Vettel plays down Red Bull winter dominance
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has played down Red Bull's recent dominance of formula one testing time sheets.

The cars fielded this winter by the energy drink company's two teams, and particularly those driven by the Swiss rookie Sebastien Buemi, have often set the pace.

But it must be noted that while most other teams have been experimenting with the new aerodynamic rules for 2009, the Milton Keynes-designed cars have usually been running 2008-specification cars with the grippier slick tires.

"We have to wait until everybody is out there with their new cars.  Then we can start seeing how we compare," Vettel, 21, told The Sun.

The 20-year-old Buemi, however - who is hoping his appointment with Toro Rosso next year will be confirmed before Christmas - has undoubtedly been impressive.

When the Monza race winner Vettel occupied an identical RB4 at Jerez on Tuesday, he ended the day a few tenths slower than Buemi.

"Of course I am pleased that I was faster," he told the Swiss newspaper Blick.

Prost says France is 'anti-cars'
(GMM)  Alain Prost, a quadruple F1 world champion, has attributed the loss of the French grand prix to the country's attitude towards cars.

"Our problem is that we tend to be a bit anti-cars," the Frenchman said in an interview with Le Parisien.

The unpopular Magny-Cours will no longer host the French grand prix, and despite efforts to find an alternate venue, there is a danger the country could drop off the calendar altogether.

"France is the European country that seems to attack the automobile," Prost, 53, explained.

He said the 'anti-cars' attitude relates to things like taxes, road and driver rules and insurance.

"I think we went a bit too far, and the same is true for motor sport," said Prost, who reportedly supports the F1 project being put together in Flins-sur-Seine, 40 minutes from Paris.

He admitted that his comments are controversial, given the issue of the environment.

F1 to return to North America - Dennis
(GMM)  F1 has not turned its back on North America despite the demise of the races at Indianapolis and Montreal, McLaren boss Ron Dennis insists.

"We are really trying hard to find the model that works," he said on a visit with world champion Lewis Hamilton to the American headquarters of the team's long-time sponsor Mobil.

Dennis labeled the continent "a phenomenal market" for F1's carmakers and sponsors, and said the fact that the sport will not visit America in 2009 is temporary.

"We just haven't found a solution yet.  That's not to say we're going to give up on it.  We definitely expect to be back in North America within the next three years," he said.

"There shouldn't be anybody who feels we are turning our backs on North America."

Dennis suggested that formula one might need to bite the bullet and buy time on mainstream American television in order for the sport to have an impact.

"The real key to America is embracing its sports mechanisms, so we have to own the television signal," he said.

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